Auto Insurance vs. AAA: Which is Better for Roadside Assistance? – The colorful fool | CarTailz

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Evaluate your options to make the best choice for you and your car.

Important points

  • Roadside assistance is extremely useful.
  • Many auto insurers either offer them as supplemental coverage or even include them as part of a regular policy.
  • AAA is best known for roadside assistance, but membership comes with other perks that you might find useful.

If you’ve been a licensed driver for any length of time, chances are you’ve found yourself at the side of the road and need assistance. Maybe you ran out of gas, locked yourself out of your car, or had a simple flat tire. Or maybe you’ve had something more colorful go wrong, like accidentally driving over someone’s discarded tailpipe on a snowy freeway, punctured your oil pan and spilled all of your engine’s oil. That was me one day when I was a student. It wasn’t a fun day, but luckily I had roadside assistance through my car insurance.

Roadside assistance can be added to many auto insurance policies, and having access to it can be really handy. Roadside Assistance can help you if your car breaks down for any reason – it can include towing services, battery jump starters, locksmith services and more. And it can be particularly useful if you have an older car that’s no longer guaranteed by the manufacturer, as it’s more likely to require mechanical intervention.

But if you’re interested in roadside assistance, as well as access to various discounts and other useful perks, you might be wondering whether you should purchase AAA membership instead of opting for roadside assistance through your insurer. Here are a few questions and answers to help you decide between auto insurance and AAA roadside assistance.

Does my car insurance include roadside assistance?

When trying to decide whether to get roadside assistance through AAA, it’s a good idea to check the policy details for your auto insurance, as you may already have them. If you have a comprehensive policy with your insurer, roadside assistance may be included or you may already be paying for it. Through your insurer, it’s likely a nominal fee of maybe $8 to $25 per year. If you already have this protection or can easily add it to your insurance policy, is it worth considering AAA membership as well? Maybe.

How much does an AAA membership cost?

AAA membership prices vary depending on where you live, how many vehicles you want to cover, and whether special offers are available. As of this writing, here are the available membership tiers/annual cost that I have at my disposal:




$40.60 per year



Data source: AAA Northeast

As you can see, even the basic membership is more than the average annual cost of roadside assistance from an auto insurer. However, AAA is very clear about the level of service they offer; For example, if I opted for the Plus level membership, I would be entitled to four roadside assistance calls per year and AAA would tow my car up to 100 miles. My car insurance policy is with one of the larger national insurers and according to their website and my experience of using this service in the past, it only covers towing my vehicle to the ‘closest repair shop’. This is less helpful to me than being able to choose where my vehicle is taken. And remember, there’s more to AAA membership than just help if your car breaks down.

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What does AAA membership include?

AAA is quite well known for offering a variety of discounts on hotel stays, car rentals, and other travel expenses. But it also gives members the opportunity to get discounts on dining, gym memberships, and even prescription eyewear. And these discounts are available regardless of the AAA membership level you purchase. Suddenly, it might make more sense for you to pay for even a basic membership.

Now we get to the heart of the matter: does paying for an AAA membership make sense for your budget? If you take advantage of the discounts and perks available to you as an AAA member, are a frequent traveler or drive an older vehicle prone to mechanical problems and prefer more flexibility with roadside assistance available, then an AAA membership might make sense for you. It’s a good idea to find out if you have roadside assistance insurance through your auto insurer, what it might cover, and how much AAA membership might cost you. This information will help you make the right choice.

If you too know the fear that comes with a car breaking down and leaving you stranded by the side of the road, you’ve no doubt been pleased that roadside assistance programs can save the day (or at least your bank account, since towing services are often expensive). Now that you know how to choose between your insurer and AAA roadside assistance, you’ll be better prepared to drive safely (and save some money, too).

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